The Small Things

I’ve been away from home a lot. Preparations for Hansel & Gretel are in that stage of pre-production count-down once so familiar to me when my career was in the theatre, but which became a distant memory after I’d made a new life as an artist. (There are countdowns for exhibitions, too, though they’re as nothing in comparison to what happens when preparations for a stage production are in the final throes, and particularly so when there has been the commissioning of new music and text.) However these last two years have seen the blending together of my past and present practices as Hansel & Gretel evolved from a picture book to a toy theatre, and from a toy theatre to a stage-production-in-the-making before somewhat unexpectedly transforming back into a new though entirely different book, this time based on Simon Armitage’s reinvention of the fairy tale into the poem that became the libretto to Matt Kaner’s music.

The last two stages of the journey – rehearsals for the stage production and preparations for the new book – will be described in detail in Artlog posts yet-to-come. My absence here has been caused by the congested schedules of many projects coalescing, and there being no time to digest and write about the experiences as they’ve happened. I will make good the deficit later by way of recollection, when life slows down to a more manageable pace. But right now there’s the endless packing and unpacking of suitcases, the planning and booking for many train journeys, the changes of work spaces, the various beds and the hustle and bustle of editing suites and rehearsal rooms and getting across London in rush hour and trying to find the time to eat and sleep. Right now I must concentrate on the business in hand because very soon we’ll enter the final stages of rehearsals for Hansel & Gretel, and what has been planned for two years will be in performance, rather than existing only as a series of ideas in the minds of the collaborators.

Throughout all this, absence has lain like a shard of ice in my chest. My journeys home are are conflicted because though I always long to return Ty Isaf when I am away from it too much, that longing is now wrapped in sadness.

The past couple of days at home have been a welcome respite from the recent pace and intensity of work, but they reveal too the small absences that cut: an empty window-seat where Jack once kept vigil over his domain, and none of the smears on the window-glass that were the evidence of his enthusiasm for barking welcomes and warnings. The cushions on the sofas are neatly arranged, no longer reorganised by him into his preference for high-vantage sleeping platforms. No dog-hair-tumbleweed on the painted floorboards or stairs, no splashed puddles by his water-bowl (no water-bowl) and our bed now smoothed and pristine when it’s time for sleep, no longer subject to Jack’s habit of retiring early to make it a cosy nest ready for Peter and me to join him. No dog-lead and harness on the back seat of the car. No towel at the ready in the boot-room. No red frisbee on the grass waiting for throw and fetch. On waking, no weight of dog on my chest, or across my legs or neck, or tucked into shoulder, elbow or armpit. No dog-hair on my clothes any more, and no Sellotape in my pocket to remove it so as to look halfway to presentable.

I miss all this. I miss, I miss, I miss….

 

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Jack and the toad he made friends with.

 

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6 thoughts on “The Small Things

  1. It’s tough without our dogs. People who don’t share their lives with dogs have no idea what space they fill in our lives and hearts and I’m sure think some of us are bonkers to mourn like we do.

    There will never be another Jack but when the time is right perhaps there will be another dog at Ty Isaf in honour of his memory and to put his or her own stamp on the place. So many dogs spend grim lives abandoned and neglected – perhaps when you are ready you can open your doors and your hearts to one of them.

    Good luck with your amazing project.

    • I heartily hope that one day there will be anther dog in our lives. I have rarely been without one. (Before Jack there were three: Holly, Rugrat and Riot.) But this isn’t the time, not because we’re grieving, but because we need to put our full concentration into selecting a new companion to join us at Ty Isaf, so as to ensure that whoever comes here will be a good match to what we require. We live surrounded by sheep, so trustworthiness on that front is essential. Peter and I travel a lot, and any dog must be comfortable when accompanying us, its behaviour dependable in all places and circumstances. None of this need be a problem when rearing a pup to fit with our way of life, but we’d have to be very careful were we to re-home an adult dog. Background checks would be essential.

      It’ll happen, when the moment is right, and when life has calmed down a bit. For the present, there are the memories, and they must suffice.

  2. I miss Jack too even though I hardly ever saw him or you! He was such a dear companion to you both; being so much part of your lives it must feel like the phantom limb after an amputation, the pain of his passing ever present.
    However my heart lifts and I smile when I think of him, that will never die, he was such a character and enjoyed life to the full, all thanks to you of course, you gave him the best life possible for a wee hound. xxxxxL
    PS and good luck with everything, on reading this post I realise I don’t miss theatre much, I’ve got so used to creating my own schedules I’ve become rather spoilt after all these years!

  3. The longer one lives, the more people ( and I count Jack among people) we miss. It is part of growing old. But all these missings end up not hurting any more, and becoming a source of happiness. Remembered, yes, but happiness all the same.

    ¡Ánimo! And, the best of wishes for all the events.
    Or, Should I say: “Break a leg!” ?
    Un abrazo para los dos
    María

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